Murdered Slovak journalist was targeted: prosecutor

Bratislava (AFP) –


A Slovak journalist murdered in February as he was about to publish an explosive report probing alleged high-level corruption was specifically targeted, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Police who found Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova gunned down in their home outside Bratislava previously said that his death was "most likely" related to his investigation of ties between politicians and Italy's notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia.

Slovak Prosecutor General Jaromir Ciznar said Wednesday in Bratislava that investigators were almost certain that the "attack was directed exclusively at him (Kuciak)" and that Kusnirova found herself "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

A Slovak prosecutor who spoke to journalists in March on condition of anonymity revealed that Kusnirova had been "shot once in the head" while Kuciak "was hit by two shots to the heart." Nothing had been stolen, they added.

The murders and Kuciak's last explosive report raised fresh concern about media freedom and corruption, plunging Slovakia, an EU member of 5.4 million people, into deep crisis.

Weekly mass protests in the capital Bratislava and other towns forced the government to resign in March.

The new government retains most of the members of the previous administration of Robert Fico, a populist leftist, whose close ally Peter Pellegrini is now prime minister.

Analysts believe Fico is still calling the shots from behind the scenes as he remains chairman of the governing Smer-SD party.

Slovakia said last week that it would extradite an Italian businessman Antonino Vadala wanted in Italy on drugs charges, whom Kuciak also named in his report, alleging he had ties to both the Italian mafia and people close to Fico and others in his government.

Vadala was arrested in March in connection with a European arrest warrant issued by Italy last year over alleged drug trafficking.

He also faces charges of attempted EU subsidy fraud in Slovakia. He has flatly denied the allegations, which were first made public in Kuciak's article.